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François Gabart: 'Charlie Dalin ticks all the boxes'

by Vendée Globe 8 Nov 2020 00:22 PST 8 November 2020
François Gabart © Alexis Courcoux / MerConcept

As the 2012-13 race winner he knows the stress of start day just as he also experienced the sweet taste of victory too. François Gabart and his company MerConcept have been beside Charlie Dalin throughout his project with Apivia.

Here Gabart reviews what will be a particular start Sunday, he talks of the favourites and why Dalin ticks all the boxes.

You were on the pontoons yesterday afternoon. What are your impressions?

"This is something very particular and a big surprise. There is this silence which is significant and yet, we still feel there is something very big that is happening. I don't know how the start will unfold, but the Vendée Globe is an exceptional race, which always brings surprises and which will surprise us again starting from Sunday.

What do you think of this 'behind closed doors' start?

I am a guy who is always optimistic. What I am pleased about is that the race is taking place. At the start, the Vendée Globe will be back to what it is normally sailors, alone at sea, as it always has been. And then, starting tomorrow night, it will be a return to proper normal and we will follow the race as we are used to doing. Ocean racing has a real social role. More than ever, we need to dream and to share the voyage with all those who will set off tomorrow.

As in previous editions, the skippers have sailed very little over the past three weeks. What do you advise them for a successful start?

This is the real subject, especially as it hasn't changed from previous editions. It is extremely difficult when you sail regularly not to go have been on the water for three weeks. On the other hand, the fact that the skippers have been confined in recent days allows them to be more focused than we can usually be. For a "normal" Vendée Globe, I would have insisted on the importance of not being upset by the crowd. Here it will be easier to slip into "competition" mode.

You have already shared the "pride" you feel about "all of the work accomplished with Apivia". Do you feel that Charlie Dalin is ready to go for the win?"

Yes, he is ready. I've seen him sail again recently and he ticks all the boxes. Charlie has done a great job, I admire what he does and how he has managed to get everything ready, peaking at the right time. But beyond all that it is still a Vendée Globe and there are a lot of things that can't be mastered. But I am confident in his ability to sail a good race.

Apart from Charlie Dalin, who do you think are the favourites of this edition?

It's always tricky to say, as eight years ago I wasn't the favourite and that didn't stop me from winning. As potential winners I think of Jérémie Beyou (Charal) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss). Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) has also shown that he has done a very good job. His boat is also very close to Apivia, which has the same architect. Then, it is interesting to see the dynamics around the projects and whether or not they make technical modifications on the boats in the days leading up to the race. But if there is one thing for sure, it's going to be a great race!

Should we expect the gaps to be very substantial in the early days, even between the favourites?

The routes are never straightforward. There are going to be manoeuvrers to do and above all, you will have to really think about how to handle your boat. In the 2nd front, during the night from Monday to Tuesday, with rough seas and strong winds, some will want to attack hard when others will be more reserved. Overall the weather in those early days does not look easy. There may be some wind holes, instability, some may experience technical problems... All of these factors can create larger gaps than if everyone were reaching at 12 knots.

Alex Thomson mentioned the probability of completing the Vendée Globe in 59 days... Does that also seem realistic to you?

It's quick but... why not? The goal for those who strive for victory is to get there first. After that, you should never set limits and you can see how much progress has been made on these latest generation boats on the last generation boats. They can go very, very, very fast! We're going to be surprised by the performance of these boats, by the speeds they are capable of. Less than 60 days is much faster than what has already been done by a monohull. This certainly creates a load of questions, but on the other hand it is exciting, it's magic and it makes us want to follow this Vendée Globe even more. "

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